Jon Garland and the San Diego Padres had a mutual option in place for 2011, one that would have seen Garland make $6.75 million next season had it been picked up. Garland, not too surprisingly, declined his side of the option, making him a free agent.

Garland, of course, will hope to capitalize on a season in which he racked up innings (200), won ball games (14), and posted a low ERA (3.47). Garland went a long to reestablishing himself as a legitimate innings-eater, but upon closer inspection he really didn’t improve his performance much at all.

His strikeouts-per-nine did increased nicely to 6.1, but he also posted a higher walk rate and significantly lower BABiP than in previous years. Garland performed well, no doubt, but much of his perceived increase in production can be largely attributed to Petco Park, good defense, and plain old good fortune.

Now, despite that, Garland should fetch a decent enough deal on the market, because he is an established middle-of-the-rotation guy, and that certainly has its value. Plus, as mentioned, he’s coming off what may be looked upon as a sort of breakout year.

Let’s say, just for argument’s sake, that Garland can rake in a three year, $24 million deal, giving him added security (and more per year) over the one year option that was on the table with the Padres. On the other hand, Garland could have accepted the $6.75M figure and pitched another year in pitcher-friendly Petco Park and possibly increased his value even more come offseason 2012.

Frankly, if I were Garland, I’d rather have ~$7M in 2011 and, say, $24M from 2012 through 2014 than $24M for the next three seasons and who knows what come 2014 (after, in all likelihood, Garland’s performance has declined to a point where he won’t garner much attention on the market).

Of course, that route is slightly more risky, because if he falls apart and/or gets injured next year, he may never get that lucrative free agent deal. Still, considering his past durability and performance, I think his choice to decline the option will hurt him monetarily.